A New History of Jewish Food Covers Everything from Biblical Garlic to Crisco, Peanut Oil, and Hungarian Cholent

Reviewing Feasting and Fasting, a recently published collection of scholarly essays on Jewish food, Joel Haber concludes that while it “may not be the best collection of essays on Jewish food studies ever compiled, it works well as an introduction to the topic,” and includes “genuine food for thought . . . on specific topics.” Haber highlights some of the more compelling segments:

Jordan Rosenblum’s “A Brief History of Jews and Garlic” is as enlightening as it is concise. In a few short pages, he traces the Jewish love affair with garlic from its biblical roots (Numbers 11:4-6) through its associations with Shabbat by the talmudic rabbis. He continues with the non-Jewish recognition of this affinity, and its weaponization for anti-Semitic purposes.

In “Jews, Schmaltz, and Crisco in the Age of Industrial Food,” Rachel B. Gross explores American Jewry’s coming-of-age at the time of food’s mass production.

Even more intriguing—considering how quickly the details have been forgotten despite the subject’s relative recency—is Zev Eleff’s “The Search for Religious Authenticity and the Case of Passover Peanut Oil.” As a study of “lived religion,” Eleff highlights how peanut oil was widely accepted for Passover use by most Ashkenazim until the current century, with OU certification until 2001, and not included in the “forbidden by custom” category of kitniyot. The reversal, he posits, grew out of the “perceived authenticity” of those who were more stringent, banning its use on Passover

Finally, in a prime example of food revealing culture, Katalin Franciska Rac reveals “How Shabbat Cholent Became a Secular Hungarian Favorite.” Surprisingly, sólet (as the stew is known in Hungary) is widely eaten by non-Jewish Hungarians, often including pork products, and not specifically as a dish for the Sabbath (either theirs, on Sunday, nor that of the Jews the day before). Rac succinctly shows how this reflects the historic integration of Jews into wider Hungarian society, and the two-way street of culinary influence between the communities.

Read more at Tradition

More about: Halakhah, Hungarian Jewry, Jewish food, Kashrut

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy